Bears in Morocco Pt. 1: Marrakech

There are a lot of paid holidays in France. A lot of vacation days. One day, not too late after a vacation in LA, Mr. Bear informed me that we would have to take another vacation (poor us, right :P) because he didn’t want his paid days to go to waste. So we set off discussing where we could go. I suggested a lakeside house rental where we could take a stack of books an relax, and spend our days reading and hiking. Mr. Bear had a completely different idea – taking a plane ride to Morocco! He managed to make a convincing case, and so a few months later we took flight. There is a lot to cover about our holiday, so this is a part one of who knows how many. 🙂

Tilework in Marrakech

MarrakechIMG_0895One of the first things you notice about Marrakech when you arrive is the color. Everything is red and pink toned! This is kind of a dim picture, but it is very vibrant.

Where we stayed

We used Marrakech as a starting point for our other little trips around, so we ended up staying at three different places. I’m glad we did this because this way we got to see different parts of the city and experience different places. When I was looking for places to stay in Marrakech, I wanted something with beautiful tilework, decor. Cleanliness was also an important factor for me. I looked up reviews on different sites, and settled on these three: Riad Mahjouba, Riad Rose du Desert, and Riad Villa el Arsa.

Villa el Arsa was by far our favorite – the staff there is so welcoming and friendly. You are met with a little tray of cookies and some iced jasmine tea. The rooms are beautiful, and the whole riad is impeccably clean. Breakfast was also the best here of our trip. The owner is a french man who has lived in Marrakech for many years, and he is full of great advice for visiting the city, complete with places to eat and visit. 

Riad Rose du Desert was also a great stay. It was also very clean, new, and with a friendly smiley Moroccan staff. There is a peaceful terrace where Mr Bear spent some time reading. It is not far from the center of things, maybe a 10 minute walk. The staff also organized an airport transfer for us at 5am, and they met us at that hour with fresh pressed orange juice in hand.

Riad Mahjouba was our least favorite. It is a little further from the hubbub of town, and also didn’t feel as clean as the others. The room was smaller and darker than others we had, and though it’s not their fault, the electricity came and went at night – which turned the air conditioner on and off and didn’t let us sleep. We also didn’t have electricity for a while in the morning. Breakfast was good and it is close to the Jardin Marjorelle, and about a 30 minute walk to the bus station.

In the city

Café de Paris

We coffee and tea at Cafe de Paris around the main square, Djemaa el Fna. There is a nice patio from where you can watch acrobats and street performers, while still having a little bit of peace. Moroccan coffee I had all throughout the trip came with milk and was pre-sweetened. Very sweet but good. 🙂 You also can’t miss mint teas that are everywhere, though I found those TOO sweet for me most of the time.

Travel tip: Mr Bear and I enjoyed the terraces overlooking Djemaa el Fna. You can camp out here with a coffee or tea and watch the set up for the street food, the snake charmers and everything else that’s going on. The main square can be very busy and if you don’t like that, or can get a little claustrophobic like me, then take a seat at a terrace. I personally didn’t enjoy walking around the main squares, too many people shouting at you, trying to draw henna on you, or sticking monkeys on you….and by the way, I am very against the monkey handlers here. Even though it might sound fun to take a picture with a little fuzzy animal, they have chains around their necks and are locked in little metal boxes at the end of the day. 😐 Not nice.

street food setup
street food setup
Smoothies in Djemaa el Fna

I’ll write a food post after, but above you can see the setup for street food in the main square. This wasn’t my favorite food to eat, and as we were later told by a resident, it is mainly for the tourists – especially the places that have a bit of everything. It’s not very fresh, and not the most flavorful. We were told that there are places that cater to Moroccans in the square, selling one specialty at a time, such as soup – so those could be worth a try. Djemaa el Fna has tons of people selling fresh squeezed orange juice for extremely cheap, so don’t miss out on that. And if you want a smoothie, go to the main square and look for a place with a red awning on the sidelines that has the name “Snack”  in it. It was recommended to us by the owner of Riad Villa el Arsa, and it did not disappoint. I got a mango smoothie and Mr Bear got an avocado pear smoothie. AMAZING!
Ok so that was our intro to Marrakech. Expect a post on shopping, more food, Essaouira, and Imlil. 🙂 Have a good week!

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